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EU's Borrell decries Russian 'war crime' in Mariupol

March 21, 2022

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell accused Russia of committing "war crimes" in Mariupol. The besieged Ukrainian port city has been under shelling, and city officials said civilians were forcibly evacuated to Russia.

A view of an apartment building damaged by shelling in the embattled city of Mariupol
A view of an apartment building damaged by shelling in the embattled city of MariupolImage: Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

The Russian attacks on Mariupol, a besieged Ukrainian city, amount to a "massive war crime," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday ahead of a meeting with the bloc's foreign ministers. 

"It's a destruction of people who are suffering incredibly," he said. 

Borrell added that "destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody in an indiscriminate manner. This is something awful."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also highlighted the increase in Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and theaters.

The "courts will have to decide, but for me these are clearly war crimes," Baerbock said.

People in Mariupol suffer from hunger, cold

The port city of Mariupol has been under been under siege by Russian troops since the invasion began on February 24.

The city holds a crucial strategic importance to Russian forces, as its capture could help them establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014. 

A map illustrating Ukrainian territories occupied by Russian military

Mariupol authorities, as well as Russian forces, have said the city was facing a humanitarian catastrophe. Multiple civilian bomb shelters were shelled in the past few days. 

On Sunday, Mariupol's city council said Russian forces were forcibly evacuating Ukrainians to Russian territories. 

EU 'ready' to impose further sanctions on Russia

EU foreign and defense ministers were meeting in Brussels on Monday to discuss the war in Ukraine.

In remarks to reporters after the meeting, Borrell said the EU was "ready to take further
[measures] with our partners" on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Some EU nations, like Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, were pushing for further sanctions, especially on the Russian oil and gas sector.

The European Union and its Western allies have already imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia, including freezing the nation's central bank assets.

But the sanctions have so far not succeeded in pushing the Kremlin to halt its invasion of Ukraine, where fighting showing no sign of abating.

Russia uses Jamal pipeline to pressure Europe

Nevertheless, Germany, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas, and some other EU member states are resisting an embargo on Russian energy imports.

Overall, the EU relies on Russia for 40% of its gas.

The ministers did not decide on further sanctions on Monday. However, they adopted a new security strategy known as "Strategic Compass," to create a rapid reaction of as many as 5,000 troops, an overhaul of the EU battlegroups that have existed only on paper since 2007.

The joint response forces are to be operational by 2025.

A busy week for Western leaders

Still, the worsening humanitarian situation in Ukraine is likely to increase pressure on EU leaders to toughen sanctions on Moscow.

France, which heads the EU's six-month presidency, has said that if the situation worsens even further in Ukraine, there should be no "taboos" in terms of sanctions.

EU defense ministers, meanwhile, will discuss a "strategic compass," the closest thing the EU would have to a military doctrine, to adapt to a new geopolitical reality.

The ministers' meeting comes ahead of a busy week of talks between Western allies over Ukraine, with an EU summit, a NATO summit and G7 talks all planned for later in the week.

Russia says it used hypersonic missiles

fb, sri/wmr (dpa, Reuters)